Jessica Haggett is the Founder of The Litas, an international network of female riders spanning 13 countries, 80 branches, and more than 1,500 members. The Litas grow by the day, and it’s easy to see why: in the interview, Haggett discusses how she just wanted to create an all-embracing community of female riders where each member could just be herself. With the foundation laid, over 200 girls would ask to create their own local Litas branch within a year. The interview below covers how Haggett became a motorcycle community pillar, and what vision continues to drive her today.
British Customs: How did The Litas get started?
Jessica Haggett: I saw groups of girls riding in other cities on Instagram, and it made me think, “Hey, I want something like that.” It was November 2014 in Salt Lake City, and even though the chances of getting any riders together seemed slim, I put together a meetup via Instagram to try to reach out to other girl riders in the area. Only one other girl showed up, but it was fun: we hung out, and we rode. And that was the starting point for The Litas: just two girls hanging out. I continued to reach out to other girl riders on Instagram, and within six months we had a group of 60 or 70 female riders who would regularly meet up and ride together. You wouldn’t think it, but there are a lot of women who ride here in Salt Lake City.
I always wanted to start other branches in other cities, so in September 2015, I threw out a post on Instagram asking girls to message me if they were interested in opening a local branch. The reaction I got was unexpected: 200 girls asked to start branches. I found that girls just want to connect with other women who ride, and that they wanted to start their own group, but that extra step of building it from the ground up is complicated and scary. Since we had a framework in place though, it made it more enticing, approachable, and doable.
Photo courtesy of @nostalgia_memoir
For us, it’s all about the community. The whole hierarchy and popularity things don’t interest me at all; it would completely ruin what we stand for.
BC: The Litas describe themselves as a network, and are very adamant about not being thought of as a gang or a club. Why is that? And what is the defining aspect that distinguishes a network from anything else?
JH: I’ve found that people in the motorcycle world like to categorize: they need to figure out what your group is and what you do and how you work and they stick you in a category. And that’s the tradition. But what we’re doing is something new and different, and I don’t want it to be categorized. I want to do something new, but I still have to be respectful and live by the rules. When a woman joins The Litas, they don’t feel like they’re joining a traditional MC; they just identify strongly with joining a network of female riders.
BC: What does it mean to be a Lita?
JH: For me, it’s not so much something inward as it is outward. You’re a part of a community. It’s a community built around people who love to ride; that’s the most basic thing: a love for riding. You have to be open to other bikes and other people, and supporting those people. I personally don’t like to take the stance that women and motorcycling is a new and foreign thing, and a lot of people want me to take a feminist stance because we’re empowering women and breaking down stereotypes, but what we really all want to do is just be ourselves.
BC: What does it mean for you to have a community like The Litas?
Riding with that many women makes me feel like I can do anything.
JH: The number one is friendship. I think the way The Litas is set up allowed me to meet and become friends with people I wouldn’t have ever met or befriended before. It opens up new venues for making friends: you can’t really go to a bar and reasonably expect to meet girls who ride. And it opens up fun things to do: we go riding and camping all the time out here in Utah. Having friends to go do fun things with was the whole reason I set this up in the first place, and I wanted to be able to do that for other girls, too.
There’s also something incredible about riding with other girls. We actually had a meet up last night, and 16 girls came. It’s just incredible to see and be a part of. Especially seeing all these other women as a collective group doing something that’s out of the social norm — they decided buy a motorcycle, which is scary and hard, and then learn how to ride it, which is scary and hard. It takes a certain kind of woman to go out and buy and ride a bike; she has to be stubborn and strong, and doesn’t care what other people think. Getting so many similar women together is just rad.
BC: What do you think it is about motorcycles that brings people together in such a unique and powerful way?
JH: I don’t really know. I honestly think that whatever interests and hobbies people have help people identify with other similar people to form communities of like-minded people. With motorcycles as your hobby, you have to be pretty dedicated. I think people get really into it and excited. People get more involved and it becomes a big part of their lives in a way that, say, yoga or rock climbing doesn’t really. People who don’t ride motorcycles just think of it as a form of transportation, but after you’ve ridden on you realize it’s so much more than that. You find a community, or therapy, or you just feel like a badass. Whatever it is it’s just the community that makes it awesome.